Celeb Moms Turned Health Advocates

Nicole Ari Parker, Holly Robinson Peete and more were inspired by their kids to help others.

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    Today, being a celebrity mom can be big business. There is already endless speculation about how much photos of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s child will sell for. But there are celebrity moms who have chosen to use their role in the public eye to do more than showcase how stylish their “mini mes” are. Increasingly, high-profile moms are using their public platforms to advocate on issues that will improve the lives of their own children and other families’.

    This is a far cry from the days when celebrities often dealt with their children’s health woes in secret. Dorothy Dandridge, Hollywood’s first certified black bombshell (and the first black woman to be nominated for a best actress Academy Award), spent most of her career never discussing her special-needs daughter, Harolyn. (Her father was famed tap dancer Harold Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers.) It’s hard not to wonder, if she were alive today, facing a more open and accepting landscape, whether Dandridge would be on this list of celebrity moms of color advocating for the health and safety needs of their children.

    In honor of Mother’s Day, here’s a list of some of the celebrities and notables whose children have inspired them to use their fame for good.

     

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    Holly Robinson Peete

    The Hollywood veteran of shows such as 21 Jump Street and The Talk has long used her public profile to advocate for health issues. In 1997 she founded HollyRod with her husband, famed football player Rodney Peete, to support families affected by Parkinson’s disease, which claimed the life of her father, Matt Robinson. (He was best known for portraying the character Gordon on Sesame Street.) After Robinson Peete’s son R.J. was diagnosed with autism, the mission of HollyRod was expanded to assist families coping with autism, too. She has become one of the most vocal celebrity parents on the issue of autism awareness.

     

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    Toni Braxton

    The Grammy-winning singer and current star of Braxton Family Values starred in a widely aired advertisement campaign to raise awareness about autism following her son Diesel’s diagnosis. You can watch the ad here.

     

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    Shannon Allen

    Allen, the wife of NBA player Ray Allen, became an accidental activist after their son’s health crisis. While his father was facing off against the Los Angeles Lakers as a member of the Boston Celtics during the 2008 NBA finals, then-toddler Walker Allen was rushed to the hospital with a mysterious illness by his mother. He was diagnosed with diabetes. Since then the couple have become advocates for other families coping with diabetes, particularly those with children suffering from the disease. The family has appeared in nationwide ad campaigns to raise awareness about the symptoms and also to raise funds for diabetes-related causes.

     

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    Mary Wilson

    One of the founding members of the legendary group The Supremes, Wilson tragically lost her 14-year-old son when he was killed in a 1994 auto accident. In 2007 the Congressional Black Caucus honored her with the Floyd Washington Auto Safety Advocacy Award for her work to raise awareness regarding the importance of auto safety.

     

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    Tisha Campbell-Martin

    Best known for her co-starring role in the hit sitcom Martin, Campbell-Martin appeared in the 2012 documentary Colored My Mind: The Diagnosis to help educate Americans about autism and other disorders and the importance of accurate diagnosis in communities of color. The film won an award at the BronzeLens Film Festival. Of her oldest son Xen’s diagnosis of autism, she has said that it caused her husband, actor Duane Martin, and her to delay having other children for years, but in 2010 they welcomed a baby boy. 

     

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    Nicole Ari Parker

    Parker, the star of Soul Food, who recently appeared on Broadway in A Streetcar Named Desire, and her husband, actor Boris Kodjoe, founded the Sophie’s Voice Foundation, named in honor of their daughter, Sophie, who was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth. In 2011 the nonprofit organization helped found the Center for Spina Bifida Research, Prevention and Policy at Emory University in Atlanta. Sophie’s Voice also works to educate women about the importance of folic acid intake before pregnancy to prevent birth defects like spina bifida.

     

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    LaDonna Hughley

    Hughley, wife of comedian D.L. Hughley, executive-produced the film Colored My Mind: The Diagnosis, inspired by her son Kyle, who has Asperger’s syndrome. 

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